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With reference to the map above, there are two paths of access to Little Mesopotamia, from a public footpath to the right of the White Mare and a second via the same footpath to the east of the village. The former enters Tail End field and is the main entrance for the tour.  The footpath goes through the yard of a private cottage and up some sandstone steps to a gate, then passes to the right, continuing through Tail Head following the Black Beck upstream to the rear of Rose Cottage, passing Walker’s Landing in Darjeeling. There is no public footpath in Bank Hill field. 

The Site Description below covers details of the planting and the biographical aspects.  


With respect to managing the land to provide habitat for insects, birds and other animals are covered on our Nature and Nurture page and in the Blog.  Links are at the top of the page.




Pré Catelan

Little Mesopotamia has analogies with the garden of Proust’s uncle at Combray/Illiers near Chartres. This was named the

Pré Catelan after a section of the Bois de Boulogne, and gives its name to this section, bound by a hedge of hawthorn,

which also has Proustian resonances.

A view of the Pré Catelan 

Some large sycamores along the side of the beck were felled here, and replaced with Taxodium distychum, Swamp Cypress, various willows: Salix alba sub Vitellina Britzensis, Scarlet Willow; S. caprea, Goat/Pussy Willow; S.daphnoides, Violet Willow; and

S. eleagnos, Rosemary Willow.

Populus nigra, the Lombardy poplar, has failed here (perhaps the sea air is a problem) but Populus tremula, Aspen, has fared better, in another area. As shelter is still required here the failed poplars have been replaced by Castanea sativa and Pinus nigra maritima subs laricio. Regenerated sycamore, provides temporary shelter but this will be cut back periodically and only eradicated once the replacement shelter trees are established.

Trees which have done well include some American ash: Fraxinus ornus, F. mariesii, F. Americana; and maples: Acer Opalus, Italian, and a selection from China, Japan and Korea: A. capillipes, Red snake barked; A.cappadocicum, A.,cissifolium, Vine leaved; A.elegantulum, A.micranthum, A. nikoense; A. shirasawavum; A. triflorum. Other oriental trees and shrubs include Paulownia tomentosa, Cercidyphylum japonicum, Katsura, Juniperus coxii recurva, Enkianthus campanulatus var. palibiniii; Euonymus hamiltonianus ; Sorbus cashmiriana, S. hupehensis and S. sargentiana; some camellias, mahonias and rhododendrons, including an Rh. obiculare. Quercus suber, Cork Oak, seems happy here too.  An antipodean specimen, Eucalyptus pauciflora, had established well but fell victim to Storm Arwen.  Hebe and Pittosporum, from New Zealand, are doing well here.  A group of mahonias which provide flowers for insects in the fallow autumn period recall a family connection with the MacMahon family of Co. Clare.

Presq'ile du Bois

Looking over the Kerbeck (Red Beck) is an area referred to loosely as ‘The island’, marked on the map as Presque’iIe du Bois, a reference to an island in a lake in the Bois de Boulogne. A bridge is envisaged as a future development, but when the beck floods large tree trunks are often swept downstream and some planning for this is required. At the moment the island can only be reached by fording the beck further upstream.  Riparian erosion is a problem here, but on the right of the beck, a sandy bank is formed where otter tracks can sometimes be seen.

Presq'ile du Bois, "The Island"


The Island has a line of 5 Salix alba, White Willow, which, having attained 35 feet in 15 years have done very well, as have Liriodendron tulipifera, although these have proved rather brittle in strong wind, as have other American trees in differing locations.  There are several oriental specimens: Cryptomeria japonica,  Japanese cedar, and Metasequoia glyptostroboides, 

Dawn Redwood, Abies Homolepis, Nikko Fir, and some willows a fan tail willow ‘Setsuka’; S. babylonica, Weeping Willow, and

S. viminalis, Osier, a variety used for basket making.

Magnolia have struggled here, but M. x loebneri ‘ Leonard Messel’ thrives. In the open space in the centre of ‘the island’ there are plans to create a structure of willow, Borromini’s Bower, following the ground plan of St Ivo della Sapienza in Rome.  A variegated Leylandii Castelwellan has been planted on the ‘island’ in remembrance of a family connection with the Leylands in Kentmere.

Robertson Glen

Robertson Glen named after a Scottish family connection is planted with Sorbus aucuparia (Rowan), and varieties of Birch, Betula albo sinensis and B. albo sinensis septentrionalis, B. ermanii Hakkoda Orange, and B. maximowicziana.  These are underplanted with camellia. Rowans are also planted on Barnes Bank, named after a connection with a Cumbrian family from

Ulpha in Dunnerdale.

A thornery on the steep slope down to the beck, including Crataegus x lavallei ‘Carrierei’, and C. laevigata ‘Coccinea Plena’, Paul’s double scarlet thorn, and C. prunifolia, underplanted with white daffodils. Walking away from the river the steep bank to the right was covered in gorse, which has been removed to reveal bluebells. The gorse and blackthorn have been replaced with sorbus and betula, which are being underplanted with ferns, epimedium, euphorbia and hellebore, with some Aucuba japonica near the top of the bank planted with Austrian pines.  These pines are dedicated to some of the emigres from Vienna who settled in West Cumberland in the late 1930s. One of the most successful of these was Frank Schon, after whom Schon Gate is named.

Robertson Glen links with Braithwaite Raise, named for Phil Braithwaite, with Fagus sylvatica, Castanea sativa, Fraxinus excelsior, Betula pendula and Quercus robur.  There is also a group of five Scots Pines. P. sylvestris here with special dedications.  

Braithwaite Raise leads into Hemlock Edge in Tail Head field.

Looking East up Braithwaites Raise with Schon Gate to the right

The Lime Walk

The public footpath passes through the Lime Walk, Tilia cordata, Small leaved Lime, with Sambucus nigra, Elder, between them.  In Ferrara the scent of the limes is a heady experience on the ramparts of the city, but our Cumbrian climate is unlikely to provide such voluptuous delight.  Unter den Linden in Berlin and the Dorset of Barnes’ and Vaughan Williams’ Linden Lea are also evoked here, but the dedication of the trees is to Cumbrian Worthies.  The term includes some landed families historically associated with the county, sharing a family tree, but dedications also include individuals who have made significant contributions to the cultural life of the county.


Prospero's Symposium

To commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II in 2012 a group of six Quercus ilex, Holm Oak, was planted in within an oval hedge of Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea. This is Prospero’s Symposium, with trees dedicated to six literary figures Pliny the Younger (61-112), Hadrian ( Emperor 117-138); Petrarch (1304-1374); Shakespeare (1564-1616); Wordsworth (1770-1850), and Ruskin (1819-1900).



The Platonic Academy

The central upper section of the arboretum is the Platonic Academy, named after the grove of oaks where Plato taught at Athens, and which was recreated by the Emperor Hadrian at his villa near Tivoli.  The evergreen or Holm oak, Quercus ilex, would have been the principal oak in the grove in Athens and together with Turkey oak, Quercus cerris some are planted along the more exposed side of the grove.  A wider range of oaks: Quercus acuta, coccinea, Scarlet, dentata,  Daimyo, hispanica fulhamensis, lucombeana, myrsinifolia, Bamboo leaved, pontica, Armenian, rubra, Red, trojana and turneri have also been planted here, along with some

Irish Yew, all with various dedications.


The central tree in the Platonic Academy is a Liriodendron tulipifera dedicated to the late Queen Mother, in her capacity as Chancellor of the University of London. Hazel was planted as nursery trees around the specimen trees, but these have now been reduced in the hope that the trees should now have sufficient protection from the holly hedge and more robust trees along the southern margin of the grove. The hazels will be coppiced on a rotational basis. 

Here too is a group of Corsican pine, called the Ephebes’ Narthex and the Platonic theme is continued in naming Anteros Gate, the entrance from the field, Tail Head. To the north east there is hedge of Western Hemlock, Tsuga heterophylla, by the hanging wood above the Red Beck. Although this plant is not the same as the one that produced the poison taken by Socrates, the name recalls it, and the name given to this section of the walk above the hanging wood along the Red Beck, Hemlock Edge is intended as a reference to On Wenlock Edge, one of the poems in A Shropshire Lad, written by the great classicist A.E. Housman.

Ashton's Clump and Doctors' Pines

Looking over Anteros Gate into Tail Head field is a group of Scots Pines, named Ashton’s Clump, dedicated to the theatre historian Geoffrey Ashton, who died aged 39 in 1991, and some of his friends. Doctors’ Pines is a protective wind break, planted along the line of the hedge between Tail Head and Tail End, mostly dedicated to physicians and surgeons with examples of

Pinus radiata, P. sylvestris, and individual P. Arolla, P. Holfordii and P. muricata.


Botanically Darjeeling has some of the more interesting Asian trees: various cotoneasters and Himalayan birch; Sorbus pratii, vilmorinii, Pink-berried Rowan, and Sorbus thibetica John Mitchell and Wardii.  Maples include Acer cissifolium, A. henryi, A, davidii, Père David’s Maple, A.ginnala,  Amur Maple, A.grosseri, var.hersii, Hers’s Maple, A.griseum, Paper bark Maple, and Acer sieboldianum.  Most of the dedications relate to friends with Asian connections, or who have been travelling companions, there are also many dedications to local friends who live or lived in Beckermet.

Looking East from Darjeeling

A number of rhododendrons discovered in the Himalayas by Sir Joseph Hooker have been planted in this area, and it is here that it is hoped to establish a Magnolia Campbellii, named by Hooker for Archibald Campbell, British Political Agent to Sikkim. Darjeeling is planted on slopes above the Black Beck, and Sita Gate leading in from Tail Head is named after the Vedic earth goddess, and the character abducted to Lanka by Ravana in the Ramayana.  The site faces the backs of the terraced houses on the opposite side of the beck. The principal sections are named after local families, Caddy Bank and Jacques Arc, with the flat area through which the public footpath leads over two stiles to Haile Bank Farm, named Walker’s Landing.


Before the land was acquired the field was barely visible through the thick foliage of mature elm and sycamore trees. But by 2002 the elms were dying or had already fallen. These were felled along with the remaining sycamores, over a number of years, and the lower slopes were landscaped to create viable paths for tractors and mowers. Along the bank sycamore have been replaced with Metasequoia glypostroboides, Dawn Redwood; alders Alnus incana aurea, and A. incana pendula, Viburnum opulus, Guelder Rose; Salix alba Caerulea, Cricket bat Willow; Salix pentandra, Bay Willow, and Quercus for members of the Jacques family.

Oriental trees include Sophora japonica, Pagoda Tree, and Gingko biloba, Maidenhair Tree; Limes Tilia oliverii; and T.henryii; Toona sinensis, Chinese mahogany, Salix babylonica, Weeping Willow, and S. setsuka, Japanese fantail Willow.  Hippophae Rhamnoides, Sea Buckthorn has not taken, but Berberis thunbergii provides some protection from invasive neighbours across the Black Beck, with Viburnum opulus, Amelanchier canadensis, Cornus alba sibirica and elegantissima thickening up beneath

the taller trees.

The first plants to go in were above the steep slopes: Pinus wallichiana, Bhutan pine, named for the superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Garden; Pinus tabuliformis, Chinese pine, Cedrus deodora, Deodar and a Platanus orientalis, Oriental Plane; Pinus leucodermis, Bosnian Pine, P.bungei, Lace Bark Pine, and P. parviflora, Japanese White Pine, were planted further

down the slopes.


Shelter has been increased by planting numbers of Larix leptolepis, Japanese larch and Betula pendula, Silver Birch, in 2010, on the slope facing the prevailing wind, and Cupressus macrocarpa, Monterey cypress and Griselinia litoralis, serviceable trees intended to provide shelter for more delicate species. More recently Pinus thunbergii, Japanese Black Pine, which is supposed to be tolerant of sea winds has been planted in various locations. One of the Deodars was blown over after having done well for about ten years.


Aesculus indica, Indian horse chestnut and Picea smithiana, Morinda, have struggled, although in more sheltered locations elsewhere they appear to be flourishing. Arbutus unedo, Killarney strawberry trees, flanking Sita Gate, which had been doing well were badly damaged by wind in 2017. On Walker's Landing, apart from an English oak, Quercus acutissima, Q. palustris, Pin Oak have been planted, and near the beck Q. castaneifolia, Chestnut leaved Oak ‘Green Spire’; Fraxinus angustifolia, Aesculus indica and A. turbinata; Acer saccharum, Sugar Maple. Liquidambar and Juglans nigra, American Walnut, have struggled here, being too brittle in the wind. Ulmus glabra, Wych Elm, is to be planted soon.




Schifanoia is named after the suburban villa decorated for Duke Borso d’Este in Ferrara, and the gate leading in from Bank Hill is named for the Valmarana family, who have a Giardino Inglese, a landscape garden, created in the early nineteenth century at Saonara, near Padua. This gate opens onto a circular grove of laurels dedicated to various friends from time spent at Villa I Tatti, outside Florence, the laurel being a reference to Lorenzo de’ Medici, to Petrarch’s Laura, and to the poets’ crown. In the centre is a Medlar, Mespilus germanica.  A narrow path between hornbeam hedges, called Würzburg Allee relates to visits to Franconia for the Mozartfest held in the Residenz in Würzburg, and to the garden by the river Main at Veitshöchheim. This is one of the few parts of the arboretum where geometrical formality is applied

Birch Walk, planted with silver birch looks down onto the Red Beck,  leading to a group of yews dedicated to members of the Tuohy family and a group of Quercus petraea, Sessile Oak, referred to as Irish Oaks after the notable forest at

Coolattin in Co Wexford.

Schifanoia is a long relatively narrow section, with a hedge of Berberis thunbergii, with Viburnum opulus and Chaenomales japonica to separate it from Bank Hill. Outside the I Tatti Grove space is provided for a slow growing Fagus sylvatica “Asplenifolia” , Fern leaved Beech.  Protection in this section is provided by groups of Acer platanoides, Norway Maple, and Castanea sativa, Sweet chestnut. Other beech in Schifanoia include F. s. “Miltonensis”, a weeping form, and F.s. ‘Riversii’, with dark purple leaves. 

This is the highest part of the arboretum above the Red Beck and the most visible from Mill Lane when entering the village. For this reason it has been planted with a number of tall evergreens: firs, Abies alba, European Silver Fir; A.cephalonica, Greek Fir,

A. delavayi, Delavay’s Silver Fir; A. nordmanii, Caucasian Fir; and A. veitchi, Veitch’s Silver Fir) a Picea omorika, Serbian Spruce, and a few pines, Pinus cembra, Arolla or Swiss Stone Pine; and Pinus pinea, Italian Stone Pine.  There is a Pinus ponderosa,

Western Yellow Pine, in the corner near the Irish oaks, another family dedication.

There are also a few examples of Sorbus: aria, Whitebeam, aria lutescens, cashmiriana; commixta, Japanese Rowan; discolour, hupehensis, ‘Joseph Rock’, and thibetica 'John Mitchell' and for added autumn colour Acer cappadocicum aureum, Golden Cappadocian Maple. The I Tatti Grove is now very sheltered, and even in the winter it is warm enough to sit out in on a sunny day. There were problems initially in establishing the laurels. Some large leaved rhododendrons interrupt the formality originally intended, but these showy trees would find favour with some Italian dedicatees.



To provide further shelter for Schifanoia, outside Valmarana Gate, in Bank Hill, a group of Pinus nigra laricio was planted in 2016. Looking down the slope to the left is the Austro Hungarian Quincunx, a group of eight Austrian pines, planted as a double quincunx, a reference to the double headed eagle of the Habsburgs. These are also dedicated to some of the émigrés from

Central Europe, who settled in West Cumberland.

In this exposed site some of the original planting failed and another form of Pinus maritima, Corsican pine has been planted to give a harlequin arrangement, at least for now. As a particular tribute to Tomi de Gara and Miki Sekers, who established the West Cumberland Silk Mills in 1938, and created Rosehill Theatre near Whitehaven, which opened in 1959, a pair of Quercus frainetto, Hungarian Oaks were planted, the first trees to be seen on entering the arboretum from the Bank Hill entrance. Unfortunately these trees struggled and failed, and were replaced a few years later by Q. cerris, Turkey Oak, which have demonstrated their resilience in the bracing conditions of the site elsewhere in the arboretum. Nevertheless they continue to be referred to as the ‘Hungarian’ Oaks. 

Plutonium Plot, refers to the local nuclear industry. Dedicated to Thomas Tuohy Snr a Wellingtonia,  Sequoiadendron gigantea has been planted here and after three failures the fourth survives rather than thrives. The Wellingtonia is surrounded by four Austrian pines dedicated to people who played important roles in the development of atomic energy in this country, and is also a reference to the location in Vienna of the seat of the International Atomic Agency. Other trees in Plutonium Plot are Pinus pinea dedicated to people involved with Calder Hall and Windscale.


Entered by Apollo Gate, Musegarth is essentially an apple orchard with dedications to devotees of the Muses, principally musicians and artists. This is enclosed by a hedge of Acer campestre, Field Maple, set with a few Rosa canina providing a good harvest of hips for the birds, To the left of the gate is a Caucasian Elm, Zelkova carpinifolia, dedicated to the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. At this end of Musegarth in March 2006 two South American Beech were planted, Nothofagus procera, Rauli and Nothofagus oblique, Roble, the latter, oak in Spanish, suggesting a dedication to a member of the Robley family. Both trees grew rapidly and the Rauli does very well, but the Roble was so bent by the wind it had to be staked, and it subsequently deteriorated.  

A Bhutan Pine, P. wallichiana between the Nothofagus marks the central axis of the orchard planting, and a Mexican weeping Pine P. patula was placed at the far end. This was over ambitious and it only lasted for a few years before being replaced with a hardier but much less attractive Cupressus macrocarpa., Monterey Cypress.

The apple trees planted, all old varieties chosen largely for their names, are listed here: on MM106 rootstock: Allington Pippin, Adams Pearmain, Ashmeads Kernel, Blenheim Orange, Court of Wick, Devonshire Quarendon, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Devonshire, Egremont Russet, Ellisons Orange, Keswick Codlin, Lucombes Pine, Orleans Reinette, Peasgood Nonsuch, Ribston Pippin, Rosemary Russet. On M25 rootstock: Barnack Beauty, Cornish Gilliflower, Lord Derby, Pitmaston Pineapple, Pomeroy of Somerset. In March 2018 additional apples on M26 rootstock were planted: Cox’s Orange Pippin, Cox’s Pomona, Hormead Pearmain, Merton Russet and Norfolk Beauty. Some plums and gages, and some quince, Cydonia oblonga have yet to justify themselves in the Musegarth, but a Cydonia planted in Pre Catelan bore fruit well soon after planting in 2002.

Musegarth includes a small nuttery, walnut, hazel and Kentish cobnut,as well as a small collection of Crab apples: Floribunda, Golden Hornet, Hupehensis, John Downie, Purpurea Eleyi, and Toringo sargentii. In one corner are planted four Yoshino Cherries, Prunus yedoense, dedicated to interpreters of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and between these a Thuja plicata zebrina , Western Red Cedar and a Chamaecyparis lawsonii Nootkatensis, Nootka cypress.  

On entering Bank Hill through the field gate, to the right is the Lambing Shed, with a potential Potager, kitchen garden, behind it which has yet to be properly designed beyond establishing a hornbeam hedge to provide shelter from the northerly winds.


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